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I was introduced to this community by DarkSyde yesterday. I just became a member 2 days ago.  I am a professional Meteorologist and post to the  Weather Underground on a regular basis.

I followed this storm from day one and knew since the Friday before Katrina struck we were facing a monumental storm of historic proportions -- as did most EVERY other Professional forecaster in the country!

DarkSyde helped me post my 'rant' on the extremely poor emergency response to what was the ultimate Disaster in U.S. history - something I try to avoid since it is the 'political' side of my field.  But I couldn't NOT say something. DarkSyde's original thread on my behalf speaks for itself.

I will be posting more on the  'science side' of this storm later this week, but for my first DKos Diary entry,  I've chosen to discuss what I believe is wrong with the current 'Warning System' which rates the intensity of a storm using the all to familiar 'CAT 1 to CAT 5' designation.

There is NO EXCUSE for what has been allowed to transpire this week -- and that was exactly the point of my 'rant'.    But there is a very small bit of blame to be shared by the Meteorological community, including indirectly and unintentionally by the NHC itself.

The NHC did a phenomenal job of warning the nation of the impending Disaster -- but in some ways they became a victim of their own success  because of the limitations of the Saffir-Simpson Scale (CAT 1- CAT 5) -- a sort of 'crying wolf' stigma forced upon them by the strict usage guidelines of the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

The actual real world usage of the 36 year old Saffir-Simpson 'Categorical' designation of storm intensity leaves a LOT to be desired.  In it's working form --it really only addresses the maximum wind speeds observed in a storm.  In it's current form and appliation -- it has no way real way to express to the Public or Emergency response people the aerial extent of damage to be expected --  nor the Storm Surge damage that can also be expected.  It is simply to 'simplistic'.  

Katrina was a Huge CAT 5 storm when in the Gulf of Mexico-- but it also came ashore officially as a CAT 4 storm in terms of observed surface wind speeds.  And while hitting Gulfport -- it was officially classified as a CAT 3 storm as measured MAX Winds had fallen off to CAT 3 intensity (sustained winds of 111-130mph).  

BUT the storm surge produced an area of devastation normally only found in a very intense CAT 5 Hurricane, and over an unprecedented stretch of coastline that is nothing short of mind boggling!   This is a major deficiency in our current 'rating'  of Hurricane Intensity.  

The 'policy' for rating storm intensity as found on the NHC Web site states:NHC Web site states:

                            The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall.   Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf and the shape of the coastline, in the landfall region.

Actual real-time Advisories from the NHC in the hours leading up to landfall clearly stated Winds were of CAT 4, and then down to CAT 3 intensity upon actual landfall at Gulfport.  Yet, we find 100 miles of coastline with CAT 5 damage.  And by some accounts, the Storm surge  hit 28 feet at some locales within Gulfport, and 22-25 ft nearby.  That is greater than ever observed in the United states -- and easily exceeded the surge of Hurricane Camille in 1969  -- which made landfall just a stones' throw away from where Katrina came ashore.

When Dennis came ashore earlier this season as a 'Major CAT 3' storm -- the resulting damage was confined to a very small area - and most people -- from local residents to the head of FEMA -- felt that 'this wasn't that bad'.  And it wasn't. Wind damage was barely of CAT 3 intensity (mostly CAT wind damage) and was confined to a very small area of coastline.  The storm surge was also not of 'major' proportions.

We find similar circumstances in the case of other recent 'Major' storms  -- where landfall as a CAT 3 or CAT 4  storm resulted in the 'real world observation' of associated damage that many times did not quite fit the  'mental image' of damage that many people were led to expect.  Hurricane Charley - officially a  strong CAT 4 storm at the point of landfall  left a 5 mile wide path of utter devastation -- a relatively small geographic area.  Even the infamous Hurricane Andrew - officially a CAT 5 - essentially produced CAT 4 wind damage - with only a very small area of CAT 5 wind damage.  There was relatively small Storm Surge damage.  The devastation left by Andrew was incredible and widespread -- but caused no where near  the amount of Storm surge damage that Katrina did.  

When state and Federal Disaster relief people have seen year after year of what is called a 'CAT 3', 'Cat 4' and with Andrew, a 'CAT 5' storm -- they no doubt became 'sensitized' to what that 'must mean' in terms of overall damage.  In reality -- using recent storms as 'examples' of what a CAT 3, CAT 4 or CAT 5 storm 'means' Katrina needed to be called a CAT 10!  

None of this is meant to excuse the fact that FEMA and other Emergency relief officials failed to heed the continual commentary by the NHC and others that this storm was truly 'different'.

It appears to me that many with the authority to prepare for such storms simply do not have the expertise on staff to explain to them all the other factors that need to be considered in preparing for Katrina that goes well beyond the headline Intensity scale of CAT 5.  And the NHC and others in the scientific community have been struggling for years to come up with a 'better' way to convey the total destructive power of a storm.

What the real answer to this technical dilemma is I'm not sure - but in the meantime, FEMA and others need to learn to read more than just the Headline of Hurricane Warning and think they know all they need to know.  

Steve Gregory

Originally posted to WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:23 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Post a comment! (4.00)
    You deserve all the tips we can give you for keeping the community informed.

    Tips are our version of currency here. You can't spend it but it makes you feel good to have it.

    Were fighting them over there, so we don't have to protect our own over here.

    by Tomtech on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:26:46 PM PDT

  •  Steve, Great Work (4.00)
    I post at as WXDelMarVa, and have been a dues paying member for three years now.  You and Jeff Masters do great work.  Your service on Katrina was invaluable.

    Kudos, and I look forward to  your contributions here.

  •  If they don't pay attention... (4.00)

    FEMA knew storm's potential, Mayfield says

    Sunday, 4:44 p.m.

    By Mark Schleifstein
    Staff writer

    Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said
    Sunday that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, including FEMA Director Mike Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, listened in on electronic briefings given by his staff in advance of Hurricane Katrina slamming Louisiana and Mississippi and were advised of the storm's potential deadly effects.

    Mayfield said the strength of the storm and the potential disaster it could bring were made clear during both the briefings and in formal advisories, which warned of a storm surge capable of overtopping levees in New Orleans and winds strong enough to blow out windows of high-rise buildings. He said the briefings included information on expected wind speed, storm surge, rainfall and the potential for tornados to accompany the storm as it came ashore.

    "We were briefing them way before landfall," Mayfield said. "It's not like this was a surprise. We had in the advisories that the levee could be topped.


    Chertoff told reporters Saturday that government officials had not expected the damaging combination of a powerful hurricane levee breaches that flooded New Orleans.


    In the days before Katrina hit, Mayfield said, his staff also briefed FEMA, which under the Department of Homeland Security, at FEMA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., its Region 6 office in Dallas and the Region 4 office in Atlanta about the potential effects of the storm.

    He said all of those briefings were logged in the hurricane center's records.


    Mayfield said his concern now is that another named storm could hit
    either New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf coast, as September is the
    most active month of the annual hurricane season.

    "This is like the fourth inning in a nine-inning ballgame," he said. "We know that another one would cause extreme stress on the people who have been hurt by Katrina."

    There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.--John Adams

    by tvb on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:29:35 PM PDT

    •  Hurricane KissYourAssGoodBye dry-run 2002, Cat 5 (4.00)
      was an exercise by regional officials and which Daniel Zwerdling captured in the report The City in a Bowl.  

      i excerpted parts of the interview with, as Zwerdling called him, the czar of public emergencies in Jefferson Parish, Walter Maestri.  
      i've posted this quote a few times but figure it'd be appreciated here:

      WALTER MAESTRI: Well, when the exercise was completed it was evident that we were going to lose a lot of people we changed the name of the storm from Delaney to K-Y-A-G-B... kiss your ass goodbye... because anybody who was here as that Category Five storm came across... was gone.

      read the Zwerdling transcript, the scientists, engineers, Army Copsmen, et. al. described three years ago -- in New Orleans! -- what FEMA should have understood was probable with Cat 5 conditions.

  •  Woah (none)
    Thanks. It will take a while for all that to soak in --- it's good to have an in=depth explanation.

    By the way, as somene whose life has been defined by the tornadoes I've been in :=D , including the giant ones in the OKC area a few years back, I am absolutely mad for meterologists --- I've even considered becoming a spotter out here. So I was so glad to see you'd joined here and am really looking forward to your diaries.

  •  How can we measure this? (4.00)
    Katrina's wind speed was down, but the presure was extremly low.

    Did the pressure contribute to the size of the surge?

    What measurement would show that the surge would cover such a large area?

    It does look like the existing system was inadequate in the wake (pun unintended, untill I realized it) of Katrina.

    Were fighting them over there, so we don't have to protect our own over here.

    by Tomtech on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:31:32 PM PDT

    •  As I understand it... (4.00)
      tides can play a big role in storm surge.  I recall KAtrina was coming in with the tide.  Did that have an impact?

      I agree, we need a better system.  These slow movers with lots of rain seem very damaging too- remember the Hurricane Mitch in 1998 where 10,000 died?

      "Let the city of New Orleans Rise Again"

      by murrayewv on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:04:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep moisture is important (4.00)
        You are so right. I remember the damage that Hurricane Agnes, a storm that was barely even a hurricane did to the Southeastern US. It made landfall on the gulf coast but even as far north as Washington, DC we had dangerous tornadoes and floods from the rain, the worst we had experienced in recorded weather history.  And dad made us sleep on the floor in the basement that night while he was awake listening to the battery radio in the dark.

        Also Floyd made landfall as a "weaker" hurricane after being a dangerous Category 5 yet brought catastrophic floods to the Carolinas and Virginia. I remember after Floyd some discussion about finding a way to rate storms on the potental storm surge and predicted rainfall.  They do try to highlight the predicted rainfall in the warnings and the storm surge, but the forecasting isn't quite there yet I believe.

        Boy oh boy however it's so much better than the days in the early 50s when my father could only located the typhoons by shipping reports and recon flights!

        •  Agnes (none)
          We watched helicopters rescue people from the rooftops of flooded houses in Wilkes-Barre, Pa after Agnes went through. I doubt that any of the flood victims waited more than a day to be rescued.
          •  It took a few years to get things rebuilt in NOVA (none)
            Between the tornadoes and the floods it was years before Fairfax, VA was really rebuilt.  For years and years it was an "underbelly" of NOVA with trailer parks and cheap motels.

            Yep I remember folks in the really flooded out areas getting IMDEDIATE rescue.

          •  i lived below the Conowingo Dam (none)
            we had bags packed and ready to go if something happened to the dam and we had to evacuate.  it was a scary night for us three children.

            I'm a blue drop in a red bucket.

            by blue drop on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:53:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  2 Agnes stories (4.00)
          I was staying in Ithaca, NY, that summer, studying Vietnamese at Cornell.  I took a 1 week break from summer school to travel down to New Jersey to vacation with my family on Long Beach Island.

          The storm hit Ithaca, if I recall correctly, but if it did it was not much more than wind and rain by that time. So the actual storm experience was negligable. But on the drive down from Ithaca to New Jersey I saw devastation in Pennsylvania, and I remember driving over the Susquehanna River with boxcars floating in it, and the river was way over its banks and 15 feet higher than normal.

          One or two days after the storm had passed inland, under clear skies with an offshore wind of about 10 knots, the Hurricane Agnes swells came in.

          The sound of the waves pounding on the beach woke me up. I got my surfboard and ran down to the beach.

          Good God in heaven.  About 15 people were sitting on their boards on the beach.  Most were too scared to go out; others had tried but were not able to paddle out to the break.  The waves were perfect curls, breaking left and right. It looked like Sunset Beach or Wiamea Bay.

          I was with my brother Mike and my friend Jerry.  It took us probably half an hour to get our courage up. Then we timed a break between sets and made a dash for it.  We got to the lineup just as the next set came in. Each swell that came in was like a roller coaster ride and the spray was like a fire hose. We sat there for another hour or so, terrified as the sets came in. We were too scared to try to make it back to the beach.

          Finally a set came in that was too good to pass up. I pointed my board towards the beach and began paddling.  As I dropped into the wave I heard Jerry call out "WHAT COLOR FLOWERS?"

          I may be exagerating slightly but I think those waves were 231 feet tall.

          I got three rides that day, the details of which I will not bore you with but let me assure you I will never forget them. Three rides that I remember vividly from when I was 19, and I'm 53 now. Hurricane Agnes is one storm I'll never forget.

          Jerry got one ride, I think.  Mike wiped out a few times and nearly drowned. After my third ride I was so terrified that I rode all the way to the beach and ran 20 yards away from the waters edge.  The other surfers on the beach ran up to me as if I were a god.  I reglularly have dreams about surfing Agnes.

          The second part of the story happened about 6 weeks later when I got several mud-caked letters.  They had been in a post office in Wilkes Barre when the flood came in to town.  The post office workers had individually scraped the mud off every letter and delivered them. Whenever I hear people bad mouthing the Post Office I remember that "neither snow nor rain nor dark of night. . ." experience.

          Wetmachine for your daily dose of technoparanoia.

          by j sundman on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:02:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  footnote (none)
            Hope nobody thinks I'm making light.  

            What I'm trying to convey, apart from my faded glory as a surf king, is the awsome power of that storm.

            I think I read somewhere that Katarina unleashed about 20 Hiroshima bomb's worth of energy.  I believe it.  If Agnes was a "little" storm in comparison, I can barely stand to imagine what Katrina was like.

            Wetmachine for your daily dose of technoparanoia.

            by j sundman on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:06:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  STORM SURGE & TIDE HEIGHT (none)
        Tide height is a MAJOR issue with how much storm surge damage results, and how far inland it goes.

        If the change in tide height from low tide to high tide is say 5 feet.  Than if the storm arrives at high tide with a storm surge 'contribution' of 20 feet -- then the effective damaging height will be 25feet compared to what a low tide arrival of the storm would have caused.

        Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

        by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 01:01:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  MEASURE SURGE (4.00)
      The extremely low pressure does increase the surge at the point of landfall.  That did play a roll in this.  

      More importantly - Katrina's overall size was massive -- it was moving slowly for 3 days and created a huge surge when it had nearly 200mph winds some 18 hours before landfall.  That is a lot of 'momentum' that doesn't just go away because the winds drop off during the last 6 hours before coming ashore.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:25:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Modified Saffir-Simpson (4.00)
        You should propose a modified Saffir-Simpson scale with a letter designation for storm surge to NHC. Coastal infrastructure and coastal residents should be equally if not more concerned about the storm surge than the wind. There are lots of ways to construct a modified system but the only important aspect is that people can tell at a glance what the surge would be. Evacuation plans for coast regions depend as much on the surge forecast as windspeed and seeing alerts for a CAT 3A or CAT 3F would trigger the appropriate local response. Different surge heights from the SLOSH model could be tacked onto the Saffir-Simpson scale. For example:

        SLOSH surge grade
        A - 0-6 ft
        B - 6-12 ft
        C - 12-16 ft
        D - 16-20 ft
        E - 20+ ft

        Future news alerts could come as CAT 3C or CAT 3E for example. Coastal regions could focus on the letter without having to absorb a huge amount of meteorological data. Sorry for thinking out loud if this is goofy. Thank you for your posts and information. Hopefully more informed people will make more informed decisions in the future.

        I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. - Major Paul Hackett

        by joejoejoe on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 11:43:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Graphic animation (none)
          For those interested in viewing an animated graphic of a 10ft storm surge in the Gulf Coast click here. Check out the amount of land in Plaquemines, St. Bernard and Jackson that are covered in more than 5ft of water with only a 10ft storm surge.

          Now consider the what Steve Gregory said above, " And by some accounts, the Storm surge  hit 28 feet at some locales within Gulfport, and 22-25 ft nearby." It's just unbelievable devastation.

          I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. - Major Paul Hackett

          by joejoejoe on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 12:12:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with the general concept (none)
          of adding a letter, or some information.  You do have to be careful not to diminish the immediately identifiable information.  The first number, category 1 through 5 is what strikes people.  How many people understand the rating systems for television programs?  It has V S L D Y FV G PG 7 14 MA -- all of which can be added on top of one another.  
          I'm just saying append, but keep it simple and take into consideration that it is the non-meteorologically informed public who is, in part, the audience.  
          Perhaps another, specific scientific rating scale that will be directed to experts who understand it -- like a better informed set of emergency response individuals.  
          Here is a suggestion (no more than brainstorming).  Keep the Saffir-Simpson scale, add a storm surge (SS) number (Roman numeral), and an expected damage (ED) number (back to Arabic numbers).  The last would be for emergency response workers and could take into account storm size and area where it hits.  
      •  A Question (none)
        How does pressure effect the storm surge? Just wondering.

        And if I recall correctly, high tide was at like 6 or 7 AM along the Gulf Coast last Monday morning. Would have been a nice break to have had Katrina hold off a little longer until a period of lower tides.

        •  Pressure & Storm Surge (none)
          Central pressure in a hurricane plays a significant role in the storm surge height.  The extremely low pressures in Katrina literally raised the mean level of he ocean by probably by 3-5 feet right within the core of Katrina's eye.  But most of the storm surge is generated by the nearby extreme surface winds that 'pile up' the water just ahead of the storm center itself.

          Ultimately, how high the surge gets at the coast has a LOT to do with the slope of the under water topography leading up to the coastline.  A gently rising slope - like near southern LA-MS/AL lends itself to a huge storm surge height.

          Sharply rising sea floor heights will lead to lower surge heights, but higher 'instantaneous' WAVE heights that would come crashing against the coastal areas.

          Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

          by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 12:57:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Isn't there a system of bouys (none)
        ...along the Gulf Coast?  What I'm thinking about is something like the system in the Pacific that warns of tsunamis.  Could such a satellite connected bouy give info about the swell caused by the hurricanes as they pass over them?  Do they/would they give some more accurate information about storm surge?

        Just curious...

        "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke

        by CyberDem on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 02:24:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Buoy's and Katrina (none)
          Yes - there is a network of Gov't and University run Buoys.  Many of them.  They give very good information on wave heights and winds etc.

          But there are also a lot of oil rigs/platforms that also report wind speeds at least -- the oil companies get that data -- but I'm unaware if this info is 'shared' outside their own company.  It may very well be shared with the Coast Guard etc -- but I have never seen the info disseminated to the public - not in real time.

          LSU has been a leader in deploying these 'warning' buoys -- but I'm not sure if they report anything other than wave heights.  Not like the Pacific Tsunami network does.  

          Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

          by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 12:46:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  90 ft waves at center not rogue, but common (none)
        from the diary of suibne

        Fri Aug 5th, 2005 at 16:31:58 PDT

        BREAKERS - Tsunami-size waves in Gulf of Mexico  

        The BBC has reported ( that the August 5 issue of Science magazine ( required) includes an article on undersea sensing equipment that registered the height of waves generated by Hurricane Ivan last September.

        The sensing equipment apparently 'caught a wave' that measured NINETY ONE FEET from trough to crest - but the researchers suspect that their equipment failed to register some waves that would have measured 132 FEET (for comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 152 feet high).

        quoting from the BBC report:

        Scientists at the Washington-based laboratory in the US used the data to calculate the extreme waves created under the eye of the storm.

        The distance between the crest of the biggest wave and its trough was 91 ft (27.7 metres) but they suspect the instruments missed some waves that were as tall as 132 ft (40 metres).

        The waves were bigger than expected, suggesting theoretical models of waves whipped up by hurricanes may have to be revised.

        "Our results suggest that waves in excess of 90 ft are not rogue waves but actually are fairly common during hurricanes," lead author Dr David Wang, told the BBC News website.

        many blue, yellow and green dogs are a majority

        by Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 11:13:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  100 FT WAVES MY OWN ESTIMATE (none)
          There is no question in my mind that 100 ft waves were being generated near the eyewall when Katrina was at Max Intensity.

          In the early part of my career, I forecasted storm wave heights for oil rigs drilling in the Gulf of Alaska.  The height of waves was critical to drilling rigs because if the 'heave' of the semi-submersible exceeded 6' (not the wave height) they had to shut down operations.  That process - shut down, start up - took 12 hours.  We had to be RIGHT.  Learned a LOT about forecasting wave heights.  By personal estimate was that Ivan produced 75 foot waves.  It went right over a buoy south of Dauphin Island - the buoy stopped reported wave heights at the 60 foot mark.  Then 2 -3 hrs later, came back online with 59 foot heights.  The eye of IVAN went right over that buoy.  Later studies by the insurance company for a nearby oil rig that was destroyed by IVAN -- came up with a wave ht of 70'.  NO DOUBT the waves were higher for a brief period.

          We lost ALL Buoy OBS before Katrina came ashore (They are STILL offline to the general public at least).  But it is very likely the predominant wave heights reached 100 ft.  Sunday afternoon, in a small area near the eyewall, and were probably near 60 feet at 6AM Monday morning just before landfall.  I based that on the fact that the strongest observed sustained Flight level winds were 167kts (that I've seen) - which equates 'normally' to about 180mph at the surface, and gusts to 200.  HOWEVER - lots of evidence from NHC/Hurricane Hunters that Katrina's surface level winds were not quite as high as the  'normal' statistical' data indicates it should have been.  So conservatively, I have estimated sustained surface winds were probably `only' around 165 mph at storm peak.  It goes off the `scale' for most of the tables used to forecast such things (speed, duration, `fetch' all play a roll) but 100 ft is very likely. There also could have been a 1 or 2 hour period when the winds generated 120+ foot waves.  These are the things that go into why the storm surge ultimately proved to be of phenomenal proportions - even though the actual wind speeds dropped off before Katrina arrived at the coast.

          Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

          by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 12:41:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Steve - excellent point. (none)
    What you're saying makes total sense from beginning to end... we all need a shorthand system of conveying a hurricane's projected destructive power, rather than merely its current max sustained wind speed.  

    However... at the same time, given this "The Buck Never Stops Here" administration... man! I cringed upon reading your diary.  We've had to learn the hard way, and sadly are still learning: you can't afford to give them ANY avenue or ANY opening for deflecting blame onto you and away from themselves -- because if it's even implied or hinted at, they'll sense it, grab it, and use it.

  •  Tomtech's right, kudos galore! (4.00)
    i wonder, can you provide examples or links to the real thing, of what was going to FEMA from the meteorologists?  

    we at ePluribusMedia are putting together timelines of the non-response of the administration to what i'm calling the Bu$h Katastrophe.  it'd be quite useful to know the sorts of reportage and data they received that might've intimated anything like the criminally negligent non-response made by this gang.

    if you'd not mind posting here or visit us directly @ ePluribusMedia: Timeline of Reactions to Katrina News i'm sure it'd be immensely useful for interpreting the circumstances.

    but thank you once again for keeping DarkSyde up all night, every night!

    •  Welcome indeed! (none)
      I thanked DarkSyde in his diary containing your most excellent rant for introducing you to us here. We have a number of accomplished experts that post here, and I look forward to your addition to that number.

      My thanks as well for keeping DarkSyde up at night. You and he have done us a great service in helping us be as informed as possible about the scientific side of this disaster, which helps us as we have to deal with the abysmal, unbelievably political mess that transpired.

    •  DATA FEMA GOT (4.00)
      The info is probably far more extensive than what I would have access to.  The widely disseminated info is on the NHC Website -- under storm archives.  EVERY Advisory, Bulletin, Storm Probability and Internal Discussion is kept there for years.

      What they don't archive (for public access)are the actual RECON reports.

      For RECON data:

      but grab it soon - I think they age off the files.

      But there ARE hotlines etc and probably many internal messages that go straight to FEMA only.

      Just as NHC has real tiome datalink + Voice capability with the Hurricane Hunter FLT crews.


      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 09:30:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  School is in session (none)
    Steve - thanks so much for this, and what I'm sure will be a long line of very informative posts.

    "Science is defined by how you ask the question, not the question you ask."

    by themis on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:36:35 PM PDT

  •  Great primer on hurricanes.....facts are stubborn (4.00)
    I appreciate the scientific angle on the storms .Looking at the geography of the area, is it possible that the storm surge was magnified by the coastline shape?  I am thinking of an effect like one finds in the Bay of Fundy, where the shape of the coastal area magnifies the tidal surges. Could that explain the extreme destruction caused by the surge?

    the holy roman empire is neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire....Goethe

    by rust belt refugee on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:47:46 PM PDT

  •  A couple of questions (4.00)
    1.  Are you related to Dick Gregory, long-time Indianapolis meteorologist?  (Not important, but originally from Indy and I grew up listening to him on tv...)

    2.  The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale seems like it's LONG overdue for a change.....or an addition.  Much like we now get a temperature and then a wind chill temp based upon other conditions.  

    Perhaps we need a "Gregory" evacuation scale, that uses a formula taking into effect maximum wind gusts, population density in area where it's expected to land, storm surge, population ages/health/resources and even building codes and/or natural terrain.  The population and typical building type info could be updated every 5 to 10 years..
       For example, a Category 3 storm coming ashore in New Orleans, with the environmental factors there (sea level, levees, industrial surrounds, etc.) would be different than the same storm coming ashore in a higher, less populated area.      
       Then, if the forecast was for a Cat 3 storm with a Level 20 survivability rating, it would mean something different than the same storm with a Level 5.   Massive project, but something like that could really save some lives because folks could take the warnings more seriously.....

    "I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity". ...Bill Moyers, 5/15/05

    by revsue on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 06:55:37 PM PDT

    •  New Scale (4.00)
      No relationship to Dick Gregory

      I've had some thoughts of a 'decimal' type system that would take into account the Wind Damage potential, storm surge, and then the 'aerialextent'.

      For example a CAT 3.5.5 might describe Katrina at landfall:  
      CAT 3 Winds
      Cat 5 storm Surge
      CAT 5 Maximum coastal impact (break points to be


      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 09:22:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The New Suffer-Simpleton Scale (4.00)
        Hurricanes will now be rated:

        • HOOVER: Sucks a little
        • REAGAN: Sucks a lot
        • NIXON: Crazy National Disaster
        • BUSH I: Temporary Disaster alone, but leads to BUSH II
        • BUSH II: Biblical Sized Worldwide Disaster
        •  If Chertoff used this scale, (none)
          would we have seen a Bush I, that we were ready for, but then we'd wake up in the morning to a Bush II and be overwhelmed?

          Just won'drin'.

          Those against politics are in favor of the politics inflicted upon them. Bertolt Brecht

          by akapensensei on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:58:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Keeping it simple (none)
        Excellent suggestion, but for the general public, the system should be kept as simple as possible, with one number that lets people know how they should prepare for an impending storm.  I would suggest expressing your 3.5.5 as 5(3/5):

        CAT 5 Maximum coastal impact (break points to be
        CAT 3 Winds
        Cat 5 storm Surge

        More simply, warnings would refer to this storm as a  CAT 5.  

  •  Great Work on Katrina Steve (4.00)
    I had a lot of friends in Grenada when Ivan hit.  It was a Cat 3 - but became a Cat 4 over the island.  My friends' eye-witness accounts suggested that there were numerous tornados and I am sure you saw the pictures.  Interestingly, many had been in hurricanes before - some were in Hugo when it was a Cat 5 in Culebra, but there was something different about Ivan.

    I have so much to say about this topic I couldn't possibly begin here.  I am a sailor and have so many friends who have weathered storms and my own experiences that I draw from.  

    Personally, I am not so sure about the "crying wolf" thing as I am that lots of people just don't respect the power of nature.  When I see weathermen saying things like "It is JUST a Category 1 hurricane", it drives me mad.  

    I always say to people that there is a reason why at some point it stops being a "storm" and becomes a "hurricane".  That to me is the first thing that has to be addressed.  The next depends on what kind of structure you are in during a hurricane when it makes landfall or if you are in a boat.  Of course where you are is a big factor as in the cases of Biloxi and Gulfport.  Then there are the unique qualities of each - Lenny the storm that everyone said was "going the wrong way" - has anyone ever talked to Mother Nature about what the "right" or "wrong" way is?  I did not get that memo...  Ivan over Grenada was a Cat 3 and seems to have become a 4 while over the island which pumped it full of devastating tornaods as best anyone could tell.  A friend of ours' woodshop tools were blown into the trees - sticking into the trees and sitting in the defoliated branches.  It was "only" a 3.

    Anyhow, I think there could be an improvement on the scale - like the British "Force" system, but more importantly perhaps playing down the "cowboy" attitude.  CNN's "Hurricane One" truck was destroyed in this storm and while I am sorry - at the same time the whole thing with their coverage was getting a little too cowboy-ish.

    People are too detached from nature.  They should go live down in the hurricane area for a week and get back in touch.  The TV reporters who have received some angry letters from me for saying that a hurricane didn't matter because it was just going over us in the BVIs and USVI/Puerto Rico where aside from our internet vigil we get our reports... really do a disservice to the whole concept and understanding of these impressive forces of nature.

    No one that I know who went through Hugo ever talks about hurricanes as a "just" this or that event...  I suspect the survivors of Katrina won't much either.

    •  Hey, neighbor! (none)
      Yeah, we on St. Thomas go nuts when we are treated like "not part of the U.S." on so-called international TV.

      I've been through Hurricane Hugo (1989) and Hurricane Marilyn (1995), and I agree that the hurricane rating system needs vast changes. We argued over Hurricane Marilyn's intensity vs. destructiveness for years.

      But I fear the next one. We have lost the FEMA of Witt's caliber circa '95.

      I am sad and angry over this travesty. "Dereliction of duty" must remain on the tips of our tongues in honor of those lost in Katrina's devastation.

      What are you trying to hide?

      by Caneel on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:48:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey There Back! (none)
        Watching this unfold is amazing.  I am actully more and more stunned and I think I've hit a place where I do not think "dereliction" really describes the depth of wrong that has occured.

        We take babies away from Mothers in this society for leaving them in a car for 15 minutes while they are in a store.

        You probably understand why from the start of this hurricane event I have been particularly interested in how this has been handled.  I am appalled and angry that these people have been so let down.

        I just watched a piece on the CBS Morning Show about one of the Parishes down at the south eastern tip of Louisiana where there is incredible devastation.  The Sheriff has been pulling the community together; rescued as many people as he could find; feeding everyone in a building that survived; and no FEMA all week.  We know that Parish would have been on the FEMA response list.  He is rightfully pissed because as he said he sees "federal", he sees an "emergency", he sees an "agency", but he doesn't see any management....  Apparently two FEMA representatives finally showed up yesterday and he would not allow them into the Parish.

        The destruction there was worse than New Orleans by far from what I could see.  Amazing.  Of course, George Bush has a record of going AWOL so we shouldn't be surprized.  Doesn't diminish my intense anger though.


          You bring up a piece of news that escaped most every media outlet evidentlty -- what the heck happened where Katrina REALLY first came inland.

          The storm was still a borderline a VERY high end CAT 4 when it first hit the SE shore of LA -- the destruction there must be complete - they not only had a 25 foot storm surge condition, but suffered wind damage of a high end CAT 4 - with isolated damage streaks of CAT 5 quite possible.

          Sounds like another week before anyone happens to really help out down there.

          Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

          by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:38:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah New Orleans was the Media Focus (none)
            but the Hurricane's focus is a completely different story.  Waveland, Gulfport and Biloxi are a MESS.  The images from that Parish in LA that was profiled on CBS today were incredible.  They are still under water and they debunk the Chertoff myth that you need a levee to have a flood in a Hurricane.

            This government abandonded the American People.  It is that simple.

            •  MEDIA FOCUS (none)
              Right again -- 90%(?) of the media focus is on MSY (NO) -- while the devastation is complete for a 100++ miles to the east.

              I can only surmise the media is still very focused on MSY because of continuing major risk to life until those that 'made' it' can be rescued.  The other locations need help -- but probably not of the nature we still find in NO (MSY - very use to using the 3 letter code for New Orleans - sorry for any misunderstanding!)

              Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

              by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 08:40:05 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I know MSY - the concentration of the victims (none)
                in New Orleans makes it a more compelling story.  But from what I am gathering there are still a whole hell of a lot of people who haven't been accounted for or had rescue attempts made in any of the other areas.  It is much easier to go "door to door" in New Orleans.  Based on what I saw that Sherrif was facing down in the southeast - it is a daunting task.

                I will post a link to the video segment when / if it comes up on the CBS video page because I think it is very instructive.  CBS has many stories about Biloxi and Gulport being neglected in their video archive now.  My family hails from Alabama and I know that part of the world pretty well.  There are probably a huge numer of dead in MS given the depth of the storm surge and there are probably a number of old-coot survivalists hanging on and still hoping someone will look for them.  I hope we find them because they will be rally mad.

                •  The 'MISSING' Coverage (none)

                  That link would be appreciated -- and by many I'm sure.

                  Your description of thise 'old-coot survivalists' -- made me smile.  I know exactly what you're talking about.  When I was at FSU -- a few of us drove up to Alabama just to see what was a 1 foot snow storm hitting the southern part of the state - snow as far south as MOB.  I grew up in the north where I'd seen plenty of snow -- but some of the guys grew up in AL/MS - never seen snow before!  

                  In 1972 - let's just say we all looked like we were guys out of the movie Easy Rider ('Hippies').  We got stranded in Alabama when the guy's car we took had it's radiator belt snap.  In the middle of no where.   We got helped and 'taken in' for refuge as if we were 'next of kin'.  Great people. Only other place I've been to with that kind of hospitality was Alaska.

                  And in my travels across the southern coastal areas to MSY -- as sparsely populated as it was back then -- I knew one day there would a lot of homes and people along those vast stretches of beach.  But the ones there in the 70's -- many of those 'old coots' were spry young chickens back then -- and I'm sure they chose to ride it out.

                  How many made it -- God only knows.

                  Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

                  by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 12:12:41 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  1st, I invited a friend to become a (none)
    member which he did but was told he had to wait a week to create a diary?

    Anyway it will be good to see someone with valuable knowledge re the science of the weather.

    Good luck, will be watching for your input.

    •  I think that rule was waived since (none)
      this persons input is very necessary and he is obviously not a troll. The rule is there to limit troll activity from what I understand.

      You could always post a diary on behalf of your friend or I could do so if you have already posted one today. Thank you for getting them to join and I hope to read their thoughts and opinions very soon.

      •  Does a good job too. (none)
        Very limited troll activity on dKos, compared to other boards out there on the internets, I must say.

        The less a man knows about how sausages and laws are made, the easier it is to steal his vote and give him botulism.

        by SensibleShoes on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:49:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •   dollars? (none)
    Given the way this country thinks, what if you put in dollars damage assuming that all of the impacted   coastline/land had a half acre median cost houses on it? Dollars is the only way this country moves.
    •  good point (none)
      that will at least get the goverment to open their eyes (maybe)

      "People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

      by rioduran on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:20:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, dollars is a good unit...also lives (none)
      You could do this for earthquakes as well...Richter scale can suffer some similar shortcomings...a 6 offshore could generate a tsunami that would be worse than a 7 onshore...

      I would add lives to the equation, i.e. the estimate of deaths if no preparations are taken, so those preparations do get taken. This is because we can't put a dollar sign on lives.

      The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

      by peeder on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:08:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      There actually has been a lot of work done on this approach -- it has not really taken hold -- just as there has been a tendency to stick with just winds peed for rating a storm.

      I agree -- a total damage estimate of damage might open the eyes of FEMA and others as well.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 08:23:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not a meterologist - not even a weather junkie (4.00)
    but I could see from those satellite images that Katrina was a monster headed straight for NOLA. It just looked like a classic killer hurricane on the images that were plastered all over my TV in north Florida. Tight, distinct eye; extremely low pressures...

    And, it was a Cat 5 when the warnings were going out for evacuation of NO and environs, and the FEMA know-nothings had no excuse to do anything but assume the worst, and begin operational activities to get relief to the people trapped in its path. ASAP. Without an "invitation." Because that's what they're there for.

    The feds knew this wouldn't be anything but a catastrophe and they sat on their hands and watched it happen. For that they deserve the righteous wrath of the everyday Americans who knew it was coming and assumed the government had spent the last four years preparing to help their fellow Americans survive any catastrophe occurring in the "homeland."

    We now know better. "We won't get fooled again."

    The personal is the political.

    by sawcielackey on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:10:28 PM PDT

    •  No kidding (none)
      Anyone who lives in Florida and watches these things knew that this one was going to cause a lot of damage.

      The image just seemed to fill up the entire Gulf, neatly leaving Florida and Mexico alone, like it was saying "Lousiana here I come!". With that tiny little eye.

      I could see from those satellite images that Katrina was a monster headed straight for NOLA. It just looked like a classic killer hurricane on the images that were plastered all over my TV in north Florida. Tight, distinct eye; extremely low pressures...
  •  Steve: (none)
    Is there a way to to establish an expected surge for each section of coastline? I understand that each storm will have its own unique negative pressure, but the coastline - and the undersea approach - are relatively unchanging, and so can't particularly vulnerable areas be so desginated? These undersea conditions change, of course, sometimes dramatically - but all these can be documented.

    Topo modeling programs are very advanced now, and I will assume that computer models can be written to generated projected outcomes. Is this possible?

    Keep up your work - and I encourage others to comment - the scientific method is welcome here!

    •  MODELING SURGE (4.00)
      The entire coast of the U.S. is modeled, and there is a dynamic model that takes into account many factors that control storm surge.  One of the primary tools available to FEMA is called SLOSH.

      The storm surge forecasts called for a 20-30 foot from coastal LA to MS. Pretty much on the money.

      My first Diary post addresses one flaw in the 'warning system' -- a 'tehnicality' of sorts.

      The bottom line is, enough was said to everyone involved this storm was VERY different -- everyone in the world knew what was coming -- but for some unknown reason - FEMA & the rest of those responsible for Public Safety and Disaster recovery/relief -- chose not to act.  

      Complacency - or stupidity.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:16:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Look at (none)
      Experimental Storm Surge Flood Models.

      The model run in advisory #22, 08/28/05 is available right now.

  •  Thanks+Questions (none)
    You are brilliant. Much appreciated.
    --How would compare Katrina to Hurricane Floyd? It seems Clinton came home 2 days earlier BEFORE the storm to plan. . . .
    --Misery factors. Can misery factors be added? For example, if the temperatures will be very hot or very cold in the aftermath, this creates a new set of problems. (I say this because 9-11 in NYC was perfectly beautiful weather. Had it been beastly hot or freezing cold things would have been even worse.)
    --How can it be that so many people weren't aware of the impending catasrophe? As soon as I saw the picture of Katrina growing over the Gulf waters, with the predicted path indicated. . .I knew this was a worst case scenario? I'm no expert, just a casual observer.
    --May I suggest adding a really practical person to the team making more meaningful predictions? Maybe a cartoon character of the concerned housewife, worried about how big a cleanup job is coming?

    P.S. I believe I heard Haley Barbour say that his people told him Katrina would be like Camille (which is their benchmark for a bad hurricane) so they told the public it would be like Camille. I saw on TV a family that thought their house would be OK because it was OK after Camille, but it was totally flattened.

  •  thank you (none)
    for all of this info.
    I am a weather nut myself, considered studying meteorology but took a different path. But I try to learn all I can about the measurements and forecasts and predictions. I'm originally from Huntsville, Alabama, which (at one point at least) was the metropolitan tornado capital of the world. I know how to spot a tornado or bow winds on a doppler radar, and how to estimate intensity of the storm based on cloud height and wind speed. I love this stuff, so I was one of the geeks up all night Saturday and Sunday reading everything I could get my hands on and watching the storm flood potentials posted on LSU's site. I kept watching and posting as Katrina's pressure dropped below that of Camille's, and I knew that meant bad things. I knew this was coming and I'm an amateur.
    My question is, how do we get these boneheads in authority to listen, and how do we explain it to them so they can in turn explain the severity of the storm to potential victims? So many people stayed around because they "survived Camille" or "they said Ivan would hit us but it didn't." Very sad.

    "People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by rioduran on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:19:19 PM PDT

  •  layman's conjecture (4.00)
    There was not much of a funnel effect, I think, but the angle at which the hurricane approached the land and the width of the system may both matter.

    In any case, this is what good people at National Hurricane Center do for living and they computed the most probable height of the water surge, and the "high but quite probable" variant.

    This is outright silly to suppose that FEMA did not know.  The real story seems to be that FEMA did not prepare at all for the coordination of a massive evacuation starting from the most basic: besides telling people "get the hell out of here" it may be useful to tell them where.

    This is particularly important if the evacuation is organized, e.g. using buses.  The city had ca. 600 buses that were not used.  You cannot tell the drivers "ah, reach Arkansas and dump the folks somewhere."  The city cannot give such destinations, neither can the state if they have to be out of state.  Only FEMA can have data bases of shelters etc. -- although nothing like that was in evidence.

    Then there is an entire science of coordinating very complex efforts over complicated terrain and in "adversarial environment".  This is part of training for military officers.  You need several hundreds well coordinated people keeping track of all events and information using a bunch of large scale maps and some schema of marks and pins.  Of course, it can be also computerized, but bad computerization could make it worse.  Someone has to tally all available approaches, by road, track, boat, helicopter etc. and of available trucks, buses, amphibian vehicles, train etc., medical needs and capabilities, food and drink needs and capabilities, sanitation needs --- did anyone remember that sanitation can be critical?

    We are talking about very specialized -- but not particularly innovative -- training for several hundreds people who must hone their skills in periodical "war games".  I am not sure if this training is available in military academies only, but it is available and FEMA has to have such stuff -- which was not in evidence.

    Several hundred well trained and well lead coordinators could be more important than thousands of military personnel and billions of dollars.  Civilian and municipal sectors probably had enough resources -- but coordination was not in evidence.

    •  Less specialized than you think (4.00)
      We are talking about very specialized -- but not particularly innovative -- training for several hundreds people who must hone their skills in periodical "war games".  I am not sure if this training is available in military academies only, but it is available and FEMA has to have such stuff -- which was not in evidence.

      The reason the outrage is SO intense, is that there are many thousands of Americans who HAVE been trained in how to respond to major incidents.  Haz-Mat, natural disaster, search and rescue, on and on.  There is a command heirarchy for every incident.  We've been trained in these things.  When those of us who've had even MARGINAL training find out there was no command and control structure 3 DAYS after the incident... it leaves the realm of simply incompetence and borders on criminal negligence.

      Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. -Samuel Johnson

      by dalemac on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 09:10:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Worse (none)
        Is the knowledge of resources that aren't being brought into play, sitting idle waiting for orders or just being allowed to help.

        Federal Resources: Air Force, Navy Ships, Army, Marines, Guard Units, Civil Air Patrol, Forest Service were not brought in until late if at all.

        Organized Private Groups: Private Pilots, Corporate Aircraft, Commercial Rivermen, Local Relif Groups, barely Used at all

        Citizens with Specialized Skills: Doctors, Nurses, EMT's, Firemen, Police were turned away.

        Joe Six Pack with a truck and a boat turned away.

        Everyone of them was totally heartbroken watching the tradgedy unfold, knowing full well that given a chance they could save maybe just one life, ease the suffering of just one person and it would all be worth it.  Its still going on.

  •  NHC (4.00)
    Everyone remembers the apocalyptic, almost surreal warning issued just before the storm hit about the "unimaginable human suffering."  Everything in that warning came true.  

    But what can you do when you have a director of H@%#$^&land Security who goes on MTP and says, as his excuse for inaction, "Well, we were watching TV on Monday and they said New Orleans was struck a glancing blow and it wasn't as bad as everyone thought..."

    These people don't even think their job entails being more informed than the average guy sitting in his armchair.  Unbelievable.

    Fuck Chertoff to hell, I just saw his arrogant, defensive performance on MTP and I would have laughed at that "we heard it on the teevee" comment if this wasn't such a shameful nightmare of incompetence from the very top.

  •  Related problem: casualty counting (none)
    I think another reason that the storm got relatively little attention from the media is that authorities initially talked about official death toll of about 50 to 100.

    So the weather people were saying the storm hit with   Category 4 films; we saw lots of video of silly weather people blowing around in wind that was sort of bad but maybe not THAT bad; and officials, in an effort to avoid panic and charges of sensationalism, came out with a ridiculously toll estimate.

    The results: The networks covered Katrina mainly as if it were a big tornado that had wiped out the main street of a small southern town, newspaper editors treated the story mainly as a story about property damage, not a story about loss of human life, and politicians took about 3 days too long to start giving the storm the attention that it deserved.

    Moral: aside from the fact that meteorologists should be more forceful when describing really, really big storms, disaster response people should be more forceful to estimate tolls. Better to overestimate and be charged with crying wolf and get too few resources to the scene than to have hungry people turning into cannibals.

    •  Especially (none)
      When entire swaths of populated regions, evacuated or not, have been pulverized to matchsticks, and trucks have been flung about like mumbletypegs.

      Stands to reason whoever hadn't left when that monster hit, won't be around to tell the tale.

      I understand the need to adhere to official tallies when reporting the death toll, but it was a disservice to the country for the major media outlets to perpetrate the myth of a low death toll when it was obvious from the beginning that it was likely to be exponentially higher.

    •  There is no excuse (none)
      The DHS/FEMA Managers totally failed.  Then froze.
      Monday night everyone knew differently.  They should have planned for the worst case, prepared for the worst case and initially responded as if it were the worst case.

      There is no excuse for this continuing disaster.
      Every lame excuse offered by the administration is a total insult anybody with half a brain.

      I've carrying a copy of the NWS Warning around, anytime someone brings up one of the lame ass excuses I make them read the NWS warning then tell me whats not clear in that warning.

  •  Get that mojo going, Mr. Gregory! (none)
    Put up a tip jar... Just comment somewhere on this thread, and I'm sure you will be bestowed with 4's. Helps you get trusted user status and such.

    Welcome to dKos.

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it

    by johnny71 on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:33:18 PM PDT

  •  Thanks, Steve (none)
    It's good to see you here.  I've been refreshing yours and Jeff Masters' wunderblogs hourly while at work since May.  Speaking of which, it looks like your WU blogging colleague just went political, too.
  •  Let's remember, Bush does not (4.00)
    believe in computer models, Bush does not believe in science.

    Our president does not seem to believe in science or scientific studies... A Leader has VISION, which Bush does not, we are leaderless....! Gore/Clark 2008

    by mattes on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:40:49 PM PDT

  •  Nothing Sunday's Picayune Did Not Say. (none)
    Anyone who thinks we didn't know precisely what would happen would be wise to read the bold-face, large-font headlines in Sunday's Picayune, which can still be seen in NO's newspaper stands even today.  LEVEE BREACH WILL FLOOD CITY.
  •  A Question (none)
    I saw a meteorologist on CBS this morning say that the highest recorded winds in New Orleans were 100 mph.

    He said that he strongly doubted the levees were topped. He said the problems were likely the levees themselves, which were billed as Cat 3 strength, and apparently were not.

    Similarly, he doubted that the storm surge in New Orleans was such that it would have caused the damage seen on the levee.

    Your thoughts?

    The SCOTUS is Extraordinary.

    by Armando on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:45:38 PM PDT

    •  Im certainly no expert (none)

      on 60 minutes the guy in charge of the levees gave a more complete analysis. He said that they earthen levess did not breech, but were topped.  It was the concrete inner canal walls that gave out. He characterized them as less forgiving and the source of the major failure.  Don't know myself, but he seemed candid and showed pics showing the fallen concrete walls of the canals within the levees.

      Stop Looking For Leaders - WE are the Leaders!!!

      by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:52:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Levee Damage and Storm Surge (none)
      The winds of 100mph - probably close to correct, especially within the downtown district.  East (10 miles?) of the BIZ district, might have gusted to 120.  

      And the levees -- it probably wasn't the immediate storm surge itself -- but clearly the pressures from the surge and the strong wave action played a role in underming the levee superstructure. A structural engineer is the only person who could speak to this point - and only after investing the points of failure.  

      But 'logically' -- the storm surge had already subsided by the evening when the levee gave way.  It's been impossible trying to collect data from the many guages around the area -- either they were destroyed or the 'network' is simply down due to power or COM line breaks.  (more likely)

      For example, right now there is no access to ANY of the Buoy's -- anywhere.  The data is coming in I'm sure - but it is not being disseminated for whatever reason.


      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 09:42:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Many of the windometers broke... (none)
      The top wind speeds in many locales will never be known because they broke as the storm made landfall.  You keep trying hard to rationalize to yourself that you were not wrong in your initial analysis that things didn't go that badly for New Orleans.  Just admit you jumped the gun and move on.
      •  it doesn't matter what the wind speed (none)
        was in N.O. that much with respect to the size of the storm surge.  Storm surge is in part reflective of the history of the winds of the storm, the topography/geometry of both the coastline and the sloping of the sea/gulf/ocean bottom away from the coastline, etc.  Katrina gave a long fetch of strong southeast and easterly winds for a long distance, to create a push of water that was tremendous!  I believe the low pressure also allows for a higher equilibrium level for the water/atmosphere interface (not as much mass pushing down at the eye, more atmospheric mass pushing down around it).

        I've read in a number of places that the levees were overtopped by the water, and that is what lead to their failure;  this was from some folks who I believe were with the levees to monitor how they held.  

        Be a patriot...Buy a hybrid vehicle!

        by billlaurelMD on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:09:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  wunderground (none)
    I didnt want to start a whole new post about this, but your collegue Dr. Jeff Masters posted a good rant about the politics of this all - even calling for IRV.  I'm posting in the comments over there, and you gotta see this person "hookedontropics"...basically one of those "the poor are poor because of laziness so they desrve to die" kinda folks.

    Link is here:

    I say go over and give Dr. Masters a little love.

  •  Welcome to the community (none)
    and we often have storms here as well, but hopefully gentile ones.  Predicting them would tax your skills I am sure.

    Seriously I did appreciate the input you gave to Darksyde.  Storms are unpredictible at best and the effects of them even more so.  The devastation that Katrina did was more widespread than any I have ever seen before.  She just leveled what she came in contact with.  Totally unbelievable. I've seen roofs still not repaired from last years damage, but this didn't even leave a house under a roof! How many more do you think we will get this year and how many of those will reach anywhere close to this power?

  •  Thank you so much, Steve, for this diary (none)
    Your imput was very helpful for all of us to understand a phenomenon that I, for one, know of only by news reports.

    Would it be possible, at some point in time when you're not too terribly busy, to write a lengthier diary that goes into more scientific specifics about all of the variables that are involved in hurricanes and what variables are left out of the CAT equation? There are a considerable number of Kossacks who love very technical diaries like that. I'm one of them.

    There was a brilliant diary several months ago describing the specifics of the current technilogical state of the coal mining industry. It was a huge hit because it was knowlegable, informativem and very "non-political".

    I think we'd all appreciate at this time a similar discourse on weather phenomena.

    "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey

    by Glinda on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:51:49 PM PDT

    •  Aha ... just to give credit where credit is due (none)
      it was this Devilstower diary from April. This is a terrific example of how brilliantly a single Kossack can educate the entire community about things we are not expert on but need to know to understand government policy.

      "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey

      by Glinda on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:05:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Question (none)
    First, thanks for your insight, Steve.

    I wanted to ask your opinion on the Hurricane Pam "wargame" that FEMA ran last year.  My first reaction after reading about it was that Pam was far from a worst case scenario, particularly in terms of storm surge.  I guess in an an election year, FEMA didn't want to consider anything that would expose them as being unprepared.

    "President Bush has done a great job---He's even exceeded the expectations of those of us who supported him." Jack Welch

    by Siminon on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:54:18 PM PDT

  •  On the Stupid-Homer Simpson Scale (none)
    The previous "Worst President Ever" James Buchanan, was only a Category 3, triggering the bloodbath of the American Civil War. Ronald Reagan was a Category 4, who unfortunately, caused long term damage to our democracy by initiating massive tax cuts coupled with enormous deficits.

    But George Bush is a Category 5 plus, having caused widespread physical, financial and spiritual damage to both the Untied States and the world that will take decades to repair.

    Governor Brian Schweitzer on seeking the presidency; "I'm not half that smart and I'm none too pretty."

    by Ed in Montana on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 07:57:25 PM PDT

  •  Steve... (none)
    ...Welcome to Reality Base Zero!

    ...No faith-based "science" here but do watch out for your job...the Bastards are vindicitve in the extreme.

    "Wonderful things can happen ... when you plant the seeds of distrust in a garden of Assholes" -- Elmore Leonard

    by Blue Shark on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:06:26 PM PDT

  •  Environmental (IN)Justice and Katrina Planning (4.00)
    Executive Order 12898 mandates:

    each Federal agency shall develop an agency-wide
    environmental justice strategy that identifies and addresses disproportionately high and adverse
    human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.

    I posted a diary on it a while ago.

    EO 12898 is highly relevant to Kartina and the piss-poor planning of agency responses to low income and minority populations on the Gulf Coast.

    Those with $$$ drove their SUVs out of the at-risk areas and into safety. The poor (mostly minorities, disabled, and/or elderly) were left on their own.

    TENS of thousands of them are now dead- not as a result of the storm, but as a result of neglect in the disaster planning and implementation by federal agencies after the storm.

    TENS OF THOUSANDS of dead: all poor, most minorities and not one of them given a way out or a helping hand while they were desperately waiting for one.

    "As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together, we make a mighty fist" Watanka Tatanka (Sitting Bull)

    by wild salmon on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:07:41 PM PDT

  •  the other thing (none)
    Thanks, Steve for posting this information. I'm a graphics artist, about as far removed from weather forecasting as you can get & I knew what was going to happen - all you had to do was look at the images of Katrina when it was in the gulf to realize what was going to happen - even if New Orleans didn't take a direct hit. Add in the local conditions (levees, below sea level, devastation of the wetlands, etc) & pretty much anyone with half a brain could have figured out what was going to happen.

    Personally, I think they just don't care. This didn't involve their core constituents, so they didn't do anything out of the ordinary. Now, if this had happened in the same town that Terri Schiavo was in....... then I think you would have seen a whole different scenario. I mean, Bush raced back to the White House in his pjs to sign the paperwork, but this just wasn't that important to them. New Orleans isn't a red base, it's a blue city, so it doesn't mater to them. the one thing that keeps coming to my mind over this past week is the quote from Rove regarding why he went after Ambassador Wilson & that was "Because he's a Democrat!" People ascribe all kinds of motives to this administration, but honestly I don't think they are that deep. They just have a profound hatred of Democrats & in everything they do this hatred comes to the front. They didn't act quickly because New Orleans is Democratic. I think it's that simple.

    I do agree with you that the current rating system needs to be updated to take other factors into account, but I really don't think that is what made a difference this time.

    Future models would need to take environmental situations into account, too. For example - the loss of wetlands, coral reefs, etc. I have a feeling that we are going to see a lot more of these huge storms.

  •  How about Santorum (none)
    wanting to privatize the National Weather Service?  How would this affect a similar situation in the future?

    "My job is to protect the American people." George W. Bush. Did he?

    by PAprogressive on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:17:22 PM PDT

    •  Santorum Bill (4.00)
      The Santorum bill would make it more expensive and more difficult to get the kind of data and value added products we currently have access to from the Universities and and other Gov't agencies.

      That self-serving legislation needs to be destroyed - priority number 1.


      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 09:59:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  anybody got info (none)
    on exactly what the structural failure was?  there has been talk that it was the flood walls, not the levees that gave.  does anybody have a really good source on the particulars for this?
  •  Are there alternative rating systems (none)
    Currently being debated about in academia?  Or even out of academia?  At this point don't you think Watercooler Joe's solution should be discussed?


    by DWCG on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:26:29 PM PDT

  •  So, water is the factor (none)
    more than wind, or some kind of combined wind/water criterion to fully rate the hurricanes and their potential for damage?

    Also, it seems like we need to add some kind of "risk" factor--i.e., the risk that we have not "sampled" the true range of possible hurricanes...?

    I'm sure you have much to add to help us understand the increasing intensity of storms because of climate change.  Thanks for this diary.

    sign the petition at

    by DrKate on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 08:28:21 PM PDT

  •  A scale to predict potential damage (4.00)
    Mr. Gregory, as you are no doubt aware, it is incredibly difficult to design a useful scale to predict potential damage from a natural disaster. However, I believe that modern technology can let us go beyond the simplistic Saffir-Simpson scale.

    You are here a meteorologist lost in a sea of blogging pundits. No one other than you can undertake the creation of a new scale: this huge responsibility now rests on your shoulders. Your path is clear: you must use the strength of this community, and others, to help you build this new scale.

    Without a doubt, the development of the Gregory scale will cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. We will help you gather the political momentum necessary to raise such sums. We will lobby politicians everywhere and make sure that the vast economic ressources which you require shall be made available promptly.

    Yes, Mr. Gregory, your scale will be far more advanced and far more useful than any scale before it. It will use far more than simplistic measurements of wind speed. The Gregory scale shall rate a hurricane based on tons of data gathered from dozens of satellites and thousands of ground stations. The gigantic flow of raw data produced by all this sensory equipment will then be analyzed by a supercomputer of unmatched computational power, aided by meteorologists around the globe.

    The supercomputer will provide unprecendented data-processing capabilities, and the small army of meteorologists assigned to attend it will add value to the analysis by way of something no computer can offer: human intelligence. In other words, the Gregory Scaling System will be built from existing and new satellites, thousands of meteorologists, tens of thousands of computational cluster nodes, and more ground-based weather data collection stations than you can shake a stick at.

    The GSS will make use not only of live meteorological data, but also of the world's most detailled geographical and geopolitical database. The GSS will factor in the land, its inhabitants and their structures. Armed with these unprecedented ressources, the Gregory Scaling System will be able to assign a colour-coded threat level to any incoming hurricane.

    We must build the Gregory Scaling System at once, and you, Mr. Gregory, must be at the head of it all. For that when a billion-dollar supercomputer says "Red Alert !", the politicians have to react.

  •  Glad To See This Sort Of Thinking, But... (none)
    There's a danger of overthinking as well.

    Consider: Earthquakes present a similar problem.  The Richter Scale doesn't tell you how the waves will propagate, what sort of liquifaction zone under what sort of population center will result in what sort of damage.  The difference is, the earthquake experts aren't giving poeople numbers before the earthquake, so they don't do the sort of number on themselves that you are doing.

    While it's certain that you can make some improvements in developing a metric to communicate severity, it's not at all clear how much difference that will make in the grand scheme of things. What's needed is a more sophisticated appreciation of the complexities involved.  

    Baseball fans are a perfect example of this, as they have developed a dizzying array of statistics, most of them unheard of 20 years ago.  If they can handle a dozen or more measures of hitting prowess, would it really be asking that much to get TV weatherpeople to master, say, three?  I mean, they just love anything that gives them an excuse for more face time.  What's not to love about a set of metrics rather than trying for one single number to say it all?

  •  Steve - a warm welcome... (none)
    ...and endless thanks for sharing your expertise.

    Like Blue Shark said, above, watch your back on the job front.

    So - how's the current (no pun intended) situation shaping up in the Atlantic for the rest of the weather season?


    •  Current State of the Tropics (4.00)
      The tropics are 'boiling' -- lots of systems to watch  -  there is a Hurricane in the North Atlantic (Maria) right now.

      But the broad scale wind pattern is not 'ideal' for any immediate storm formation that would end up in the Gulf.  But by immediate - I mean the next 3 days or so.  

      There are times when conditions set up where a storm will form every 2-3 days -- that type of pattern does not exist at the moment, and doesn't seem likely for another week at least.

      That said -- I think what people really want to know is - are there more big storms coming that will hit the U.S.

      And I know the second I hit 'submit' I will regret saying this -- but I think the global weather pattern is setting up such that a majority of the storms that do develop -- will not hit the U.S. mainland.  

      Steve Gregory

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 09:54:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Never regret optimism - (none)
        especially when you have a scientific basis for it.

        It's good to be able to draw a breath - the last thing we need is another slam like Katrina.  I don't think our current administration really requires another opportunity to prove its incompetence, either: not with our lives.

        Good god - surely we have enough, by now, to impeach the lot of them.


  •  something I saw earlier... (none)
    There was a diary cskendrick posted earlier (and apparently later withdrew) about quantifying the power of a hurricane in megatons (per revolution); he even dug up a formula for it. It seemed to me that gives a good rough measure of the overall power and size of a storm that isn't just linked to wind speed.

    Of course there are always problems with using a single number to rate anything (I will attest to that just from my background in computer science) and I am by no means convinced that this would be the number to use. But I think it's something to think about, at least as a thought exercise, perhaps even a step in the right direction.

    •  That would be a good scale (none)
      Because hurricanes are so big. IIRC, they mostly run in the gigatons.  If people heard that a 1 million-times-hiroshima hurricane was coming they would RUN - which would be a good thing.  It would be interesting to correlate various scale with quantity of damage to see which is the "best".
  •  Some notes (4.00)
    First, stop piratization of weather data It is absolutely essential that all relevant data be available.

    Second, Katrina was a storm that, if you took away the coast lines, didn't look like a hurricane from the Atlantic, but instead, like a Pacific Super-typhoonSuch as Nabi currently churning through the pacific.

    Third, the NHC did, indeed, do a tremendous job, and has been doing a tremendous job for some time. However, there has been a lack of coordination with other forecasting agencies in other countries. This needs to be remedied, and the data from all agencies available in one place.

  •  Kat's surge was underestimated (none)
    An additional problem is the surge models, which seems to have underestimate Katrina's surge by 5-10 feet.   That cost a lot of lives in Mississippi, or at least would have if the news could have been communicated effectively.
  •  I was a meteorologist in the NOAA (none)
    National Weather Service for 20 years. I agree, NHC did a great job forecasting, tracking and updating as Katrina developed. I recently left the agency but I think all Americans can be proud of the efforts of their government's weather service.

    What would Blackbeard do?

    by Agent of Fortune on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:22:51 PM PDT

  •  Steve, what does it mean (none)
    when you look at the spinning, swirling pattern of the storm from the satellite photos and it looks exactly like a Toyota Matrix hubcap? What I mean is there was a pattern of clouds, much wider than a hurricane's eye, with five arms inside a circle, and rounded-edged triangular empty spaces in between, and instead of one eye it had a handful of small holes as if it was bolted down. I couldn't find a still satellite photo on line that showed this, but I saw it twice, once during the hurricane, and once as background filler on Fox. No one commented on it, I simply thought it was an awesome, terrible sight; a giant wheel spinning towards the land. The pattern had depth to it, too, that made me think of not just a spinning hubcap, but a kitchen-sink drain basket or something.
       Looking at the photos as Katrina bore down, I thought there was no escaping this disaster. How could anyone look at it and not think so? But this pattern was so perfectly, weirdly geometric that I've been wondering if the big ones all form these patterns and seeing it was just a lucky break in the clouds, or was that something truly unusual?

    ...conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...

    by nhwriter on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:24:12 PM PDT

    •   SPINNING 'SPOKES' or 'ARMS' ** (none)
      You were getting a glimpse of what a Hurricane REALLY is -- a series of spiraling lines of thunderstorms - squall lines so to speak -- that surround the storm and spiral inward towards it's ceneter.  Many times, typical images of a hurricane show a round circular mass of clouds -- as if there is just this continuous area of rain.  That is wrong.  You are seeing the cirrus blow-off from the tops of all the thunderstorms that surround the storm and spiral inward and towards the eyewall and are really just squall lines of thunderstorms.

      There were these moments that Katrinas upper level storm outflow and sinking motion between each of these thunderstorm spirals simply cleared out some of the cirrus clouds, exposing the primary squall lines of thunderstorms.  An unusual phenomena to get to see.

      In the center of all hurricanes is the eye wall - a true closed, circular ring of extremely powerful thunderstorms that surround the calm inner eye of the storm.  That inner ring, the eyewall, is where the strongest winds are found.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 08:12:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  question about storm surge and reading suggestions (none)
    How do you think this compares in terms of storm surge and intensity to the Galveston 1900 hurricane?  The description in Isaac's Storm of the rising water is really what has given me a model of how to think about the surge in Mississippi and the damage of a strong "category 4" hurricane.  I don't have my copy of the book with me (I loaned it to someone) but how big was the storm?  How comparable was its damage (in the initial on-shore trip and the storm surge) to Katrina?

    And on another note, if you have time (and if you want to think about it and diary on it later when you have time, that would be great!):
    What books on hurricanes would you recommend?  I read a lot of non-fiction (during the academic year, particularly, when I just don't have time for novels, but non-fiction is easier to step into for me), and obviously meteorology is worth anyone's interest.  
    In terms of hurricanes I have read The Storm of the Century and the Galveston book above.  I am currently reading one on the 1928 Florida hurricane.  But what others should I read?  And are there other books about meteorology or historical weather I should get to know, or that are interesting reads?  Thanks very much.

      As mentioned above, Galveston was a CAT 3 (we think) and the flooding took 6,000-8,000 lives in Galveston and the immediate syurrounding area.

      Without the phenomenal network of oceanic sreports from overr the Gulf, we'll never really know how strong that storm was -- but i suspect it never quite wa as severe or large as Katrina.

      I will consider doing a story on that storm, and other sources of reading material on the subject in general.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:58:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  More Complex Index (none)
    Steve - welcome, great diary.

    Clearly, a multivariable index is needed.  One model that comes to mind comes from the cancer field - rating cancers according to several varables to get a more complex analysis: the TNM index describes a tumor by size - T, node involvement -N, and metastasis -M.  It quickly sums up how dangerous the condition is.  All three have a bearing on prognosis.

    Just a suggestion for a model to think about - maybe - Wind - Water - Area?

  •  No (none)
    That was the president of Jefferson Parish, Aaron Broussard.  I believe that Mayfield is based in Homestead, FL.

    There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.--John Adams

    by tvb on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:54:21 PM PDT

    •  sorry (none)
      Darn it, I meant to post this way up above in regards to a question if Mayfield was Broussard.  

      Sorry 'bout that.  I need some sleep.

      There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.--John Adams

      by tvb on Sun Sep 04, 2005 at 10:55:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for posting here (none)
    We have some good diarists here who try to give us the science behind the news, but all too often it's economic or political science rather than a harder science like meteorology.

    If I can ask a professional question, I'm curious about how Katrina compares with the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. I know that the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale is fairly recent, and that meteorology today is like night and day when compared to 105 years ago, but it seems to me the damage to Galveston was worse than the damage to New Orleans, if only in that (if I remember the description I once read) Galveston took a direct hit and almost nothing was left standing by the time the storm had passed.


    •  GALVESTON (none)
      Yes - the damage was complete, the death toll 6,000-8,000 in the immediate city area.  It is estimated however, that the damage was that of a strong CAT 3 -- the constuction of buildings back then was no where near as good as today.

      The storm surge took all those lives -- but again -- the city had virtually no warning system of the impending disaster.  

      Had Katrina come ashore without warning -- we would of had 100,000-200,000 deaths.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:51:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Welcome to the site, Mr. Gregory! (none)

    During all the talk in the years before Katrina on how New Orleans would flood, the nightmare scenario was a Cat 4 or stronger storm moving just east of New Orleans, as Katrina did.  

    Had a Cat 5 hit, they would not be plucking survivors from the roof because there would be no roof fr the survivors to stand on.  


  •  Wasn't the storm surge (none)
    being so big in part because of the size of Katrina as well?
      Abosultely -- as I replied elsewhere, the storm was HUGE, and was a CAT % for around 12 hours straight -- THAT generated the monstrous storm surge that just dosesn't 'stop' because  the MAX core winds ease off in the final hours before landfall.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 07:40:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tipping Point (none)
        Thanks for all of your information. I have both enjoyed and learned from your writing.

        Could hurricanes be at a tipping point of global warming? Could we be starting an entirely new higher level of activity?

        If so, should we be rebuilding anything but absolutely essential housing & businesses on the coast?

        In your modeling, do you factor in hugh bumps like earthquakes, large amounts of ice flows, permafrost melting or volcanos errupting? It seems like that energy has to go somewhere.

  •  NWS Statement (none)
    I saw that at least one person in these comments is a meteorologist for NOAA who thought that the NHC and Weather Service had done a great job.

    I asked my father, who also worked for NOAA for the better part of 30 years if he had ever seen a Weather Statement as strongly worded as the one put out on Sunday in advance of Katrina.  

    His comment was, "NO I have NEVER seen wording that explicit. In fact it is not recommended and some have been given a slap on the hand for being too explicit."

    The folks in the NWS and NHC were on top of things, even if (and I agree) the categories they are working with need to be updated.  It's too bad their warnings were ignored by the officials above them.

    •  NWS Statement IMPORTANT to Note (none)
      Your father is absolutely right -- I have been 'watching' Hurricanes for 35+ years -- I don't recall ever seeing such strongly worded headlines either.

      And they HAD to do it -- because the 'CAT' system of rating just wasn't adequate enough to make sure people got the real message - this was going to be a storm of epic proportions.

      I hope that my comments on the Saffir-Simpson scale are not taken out of context -- the NHC could not have done a better job.  The Emergency response people could not have a worse job.

      Steve Gregory WeatherInsite

      by WeatherInsite on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 01:07:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for verifying (none)
        Good to know the ol man knows what he's talking about.  He's not given to overstatement, so I figured he was telling it like it is.

        It sounds like you didn't, but I hope you didn't take my comments as critical - I agree with you on the Saffir-Simpson scale and never thought you were being critical of the folks generally at NOAA or at NHC.

  •  Weather school (none)
    Steve==Thanks for the informative commentary (and thanks to Darksyde for introducing me to Weather Underground).  

    I think we need 'weather' taught as part of a basic jr high or high school science course.  Right along with basics of earthquakes and tsunamis, and maybe some basic survival skills. How to best screen the 'crap, it will be a lousy weekend' forecasts from the 'get the hell out now' warnings.  Things like the implications of extreme low pressure and effects on bodies of water.  Even being aware of natural signs like all the birds leaving an area; birds are good at predicting a bad blow.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 08:28:26 AM PDT

  •  late to the party, but... (none)
    It sounds like the real issue that people are concerned about is the amount of damage that a hurricane will do. Am I right?

    Wind speed is a first-order approximation, but other factors certainly influence the damage potential -- pressure, tides, landscape at the projected point of landfall, population density and industrial density, etc. All discussed in the comments.

    Unfortunately a first-order approximation can be misleading when you add in all the additional factors. Years of "soft" damage definitely led people to underestimate the damage potential of Katrina.

    It would take a meteorologist to do this (hint hint), which I'm not, but you'd think there would have to be some way to add all the damage factors together. It seems as if we know a lot of the basic data. Wind speeds, tides, and pressure are all tracked the whole lifetime of the storm. Landfall seems to be very predictable a day or more in advance.

    It also seems that landfall represents the peak of the storm's damage potential -- at least in the Gulf area. Is that right?

    Perhaps you could look at past hurricane data and do a multi-variable curve-fit to come up with some sort of Damage Potential at Landfall. "DPL"? The Gregory-Masters scale? :-)

    The primary difficulty is getting rid of the subjective parts of the equation. The two biggest subjective areas are probably judging the landscape, and assessing the "actual damage" done by a past storm. But both of those seem basically surmountable.

    The nice thing about a system like DPL is that it would be completely orthogonal to the old system -- while superficially related they wouldn't necessarily have any strong relation to each other. Dennis would have been a CAT 3 with a low DPL. Katrina would have been a CAT 4 with an astronomical DPL.

    Make a couple of reasonably accurate predictions, and you'd quickly see the people holding the money start paying close attention to DPL.

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